The Greatest Showman

Ok.  So, I’m obsessed.  It seriously is my all-time favorite movie.  You’ve Got Mail has been my all- time favorite movie since forever and this has officially surpassed it.  I pre-ordered the DVD and it came yesterday.  Yes, I know it’s a musical with dancing (which is right up my alley), but the message and some of the lines (and some of the lines in the songs) are just SO powerful.

I am not about over spiritualizing things that are not meant to be spiritual.  But sometimes God uses non-spiritual things to make an impact on me.  This was one of those things.

Towards the end of the movie the main character, P.T. Barnham, realized he had been running after fame and ignoring his family and what really mattered.  He said this to his wife: “I just wanted to be more than I was.”  And his adoring wife responded, “I never wanted anything but the man I fell in love with.”  And it hit me, and the tears flowed.  This sweet wife didn’t want him to be more, she just wanted him to be him.  The exact person she fell in love with.  She didn’t want an improved, better, smooth-edged guy.  She wanted her guy.

Most of my life I have been living out of the “want to be more than I am” mentality.  And everyone around me has never wanted anything but who they fell in love with.  Including God.  How beautiful is that picture and representation of love.  True love.  God is not waiting for me to improve myself.  He is not waiting for me to smooth all my rough edges.  He is not waiting for me to be better.  He is not desiring that I read the latest and greatest book on parenting boys to be a better mother to my boys.  He already created me to be the best mother to my boys – I’m the only mama they have.  He will fill in the gaps.

He loves me yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  He has already forgiven my yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  People, do you understand and truly grasp that?  Seriously, start this paragraph over and let it sink in.  I know we just celebrated Easter on April Fool’s Day, but I am not foolin’ ya (sorry I couldn’t resist), the blood shed on that cross erased all sins past, present, and future.

Sometimes I think we get stuck at the cross and ignore the empty grave.  The cross doesn’t mean anything without the empty grave.  Think about it.  Would you rather be stuck on your knees at the cross confessing over and over and over again at the feet of a dead Jesus?  Or would you rather be dancing in front of the open, empty grave with a risen savior?  The empty grave means I don’t have to come to God asking for forgiveness every time I slip up.  I’ve already been forgiven.  It means that I come to God when I slip up saying, “God, I am so sorry for losing self-control.  Thank you for already forgiving me.  Thank you for continuing to want nothing but exactly who I am – your imperfect daughter!”

What a paradigm shift!  What a way to step out into freedom and dance victoriously.  Whew!  And this all seriously stemmed from me watching the movie.  Peeps – go watch the movie!

What about you?  Are you stuck at the cross?  Where is he asking you to find freedom in the empty grave?  Where might he be asking you stop and say no to wait for the better yes? Next time you find yourself asking God to forgive you try instead to say, “Thank you for already forgiving me.”  Take some time this week to just sit in the quiet and listen to your Savior tell you: “I never want anything but you, just as you are, the person I created and love”.  Believe it. Have a conversation with Him and journal what He tells you.

Let me hear from you.  Comment below.  I know I’ve been silent for a while, but more is coming.  As soon as I have a moment to write I promise more is coming.  I have been learning so much that I know God is wanting me to share with you.


My sweet friend, Kimberly McLeod, asked me to be a guest writer on her blog.  I wanted to share it with you as well.  (You can also see it on her blog by clicking here).  She recently designed and produced an awesome journal called the Words Journal modeled after our mentor’s method to journaling.  The Lord has shown great favor upon this project and she is already in her second printing.  Keep reading for a link where you can see and purchase one for yourself.


Hey friends! I pray you have stepped into 2018 with some new, fresh words in your head and heart. Words that bless and heal. Have you considered picking a word for 2018? One to focus and reflect on? One that inspires and restores you? Consider this!

I am excited to share a fresh word from my dear friend, Ashley Jansen. She is a lover of words and her heart is to use God’s words to bless and heal others! I believe her words are the perfect challenge to us this month as we begin 2018!

“Do you ever wish you were blind?  I do.  I mean I am not trying to be insensitive and of course I don’t really desire not to see, but there are things I wish I was blind to.  I feel it would make the comparison trap not-so-trap-like.  I would stop striving for the next thing and just be content with the current thing.  I’d be OK with my current grade rather than desiring my neighbor’s upgrade.  I wouldn’t be able to see Jo-Jo’s latest beautiful project full of ship-lap or the latest magazine with the beautiful (unrealistic-touched-up) star on the cover.

It’s hard to put the blinders on, which is why I wish I was blind sometimes.  I think about the type of blinders you see on the horse of a horse-drawn carriage.  He can only see in front of him to stay his path.  Those are the type of blinders I wish someone could put on me.

My late mentor, Regina Williams, (who Kimberly modeled the Words Journal from) used to tell us all the time, “Bloom where you are planted”. IMG_4655 She would encourage us that God had planted us exactly where we are for a purpose and he desired us to thrive and bloom in that season.  My personal opinion is the more you look over at someone else’s garden where they are planted the less you bloom where you are planted. This keeps you from reaching the full potential God desires, thus you stay in that spot for longer (sometimes longer than he intended).

The comparison trap is hard.  Social media gives us our friend’s highlight real that doesn’t measure up to our normal, mundane day.  The neighbor got the new model of your dream car and now you are grumpy about your perfectly fine and working car.  Your sister is getting the new kitchen you have always wanted.  Or maybe it’s even more personal.  You got asked to be a bridesmaid again and you still have no ring of your own.  You received another baby shower invitation and you really thought the next baby celebrated would be yours.  Regina would say, “Bloom where you are planted.”  Saturate your life with His words so that your roots dig down so deep you wouldn’t want to be planted anywhere else.  His desires for you include a prosperous life full of blooms (Jeremiah 29:11).

I think this can also apply to situations you may not really want to bloom.  This was me 2 years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I was in a struggle with my heavenly father.  I didn’t want to bloom here.  But the more I fought it the harder the season was.  When I accepted cancer and chose to dig my roots deep into the soil of my circumstance the bloom that came forth was hearty, beautiful, and oh so fragrant.  Have you ever been there?  Maybe it wasn’t cancer, but maybe it was some other sort of medical or physical ailment. Maybe it was a broken relationship or marriage.  Maybe it was a prodigal child.  Maybe it was job loss.  Maybe it was grief.  My sweet beautiful friend – dig your roots into that soil.  Your father wants to grow a beautiful bloom from you.

Is there something in your current circumstances that you are resisting?  Could it be God has you exactly where he wants you on purpose, for a purpose so that your roots can grow deep and he can produce blooms in your life?

Is there something in your life you have grown discontent over that the Lord is asking for you to remain where he has you, stop resisting, and just bloom where you are planted?

Grab your words journal ( and tease out those questions.  Be honest with your heavenly father, because he cares about you (Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7).  He wants to hear your heart!”

What a good word friends! Let’s all find our place to bloom in 2018!



Hello you wonderful people who read my ramblings.  Today I wanted to share with you something that is not my original idea, but in true ‘AJ’ fashion I tend to add my own flare to someone else’s ideas (read: make it better according to my opinion).

So if you have never heard of the company/ministry ‘Orange’ you should totally check them out for all things ‘KidMin’ (Kids Ministry) and Parenting.  They have some wonderful resources.  Awhile ago they came out with the Legacy Marble Jar, but I wanted to add a little more to it.

So I purchased my jars and marbles from Hobby Lobby (waiting for each item to be 50% off of course) and downloaded the Parent Cue app so that I could figure out how many marbles went into each jar based on the age of the boys.

So I know you are thinking, “Girl, what in tarnation are you talkin’ about – you have lost your marbles!”  Let me explain…

Each marble equals one week of your child’s life under your roof.  There is on average 936 weeks from your child’s birth to when he/she graduates from high school.  So I logged into the app, entered my children’s birth dates, and it told me how many weeks he had left under my roof.  I put that number of marbles in one jar (the tall one with their names on it in the picture).  I put the difference in the other jar (the shorter one).  I also put 18 larger bright orange and yellow marbles scattered throughout the jar.

Every Sunday evening before going to bed Mark or I move a marble from the tall jar to the short jar.  And it becomes a visible representation just how important each week is that we have with each of our boys.  It reminds me how intentional we should be each week.  And how tightly I want to squeeze them and never let go.

You will also notice in the picture brown leather-bound journals.  At the time we move a marble over if there has been something particularly important that happened, cute that was said, or a memory I would love to record I’ll just jot it down in that boy’s journal.

Each year on their birthday I move over one of the larger bright marbles and Mark and I write letters in the journal to the birthday boy.  I also interview them and have asked them the same questions each year since age 3.  (Thank you MG for this idea many moons ago).  They are simple questions: what is your favorite meal?, who is your best friend?, what do you enjoy doing?, who is Jesus to you?, etc.).

Now I will say, when both sets of our parents saw this they all looked at us and said, “How sad.” or “How depressing.”  Which I guess it could be looked at as sad and depressing.  But, that’s not really how we look at the jars.  Every week I say a prayer of thanksgiving for one more week I had the privilege to parent my children.  One more week where God filled in the gaps for me.  One more week that I got to experience the joy of each of my boys or even the trials of my boys.  Each week is one more week that God has gifted me to steward wisely in the rearing of my children.  And the visual reminder, well it just helps me stay focused and on point.  For the harder weeks I’m glad the week is over and in the other jar.  For the wonderful weeks I hold onto the marble a little longer and write a memory in their books.  And for the normal, “mundane” weeks I just smile and say “Thank You Lord”.

How do you stay intentional and “on point” in your life?  It doesn’t have to just be in your parenting, but I would love to hear your ideas.

<make sure to click on the links above that take you to the orange website and the link to the app>

Even if…

My last post touched on some of the world wide and personal struggles as of recently. There was a heavier struggle that was sorta the umbrella over all the rest for me personally and I knew it would deserve its own post.

A song I have listened to on repeat over the last few weeks is by Mercy Me. I’m not a huge Mercy Me fan – I don’t think I own any of their albums. But this particular song really spoke to me during a hard time in my extended family.

I know that I have shared a lot of songs recently but that’s what is churning in my heart and thus what ends up on here.

In March my first cousin, Allan, was diagnosed with ALS. I got to see first hand just how wicked this disease is and when I say wicked I mean absolutely terrible. Allan and his family are not just the cousins or aunt and uncle you see every decade and send polite Christmas cards to. When I think of my life and my family the members of the McDonald family are always there. Every holiday. Every birthday. Every special event. Every celebration. The birth of my children. My breast cancer surgeries. (Yes they traveled from Texas for those events). Allan really was more of a big brother to me and my sister. My aunt (his mom) and my mom are the best of friends. You get my point I guess.

Mark and I were able to visit Allan this past summer and how I wish we would’ve taken a picture that day. It was such a sweet time. The disease had already stolen his ability to walk and had restricted him to a wheelchair. It had stolen most of his speech.  But he was still laughing and full of joy. We had the honor of laying hands on him and praying over him.

His wife and two children (13 & 10) adapted as fast as they could and as well as they could. His son learned how to shave him. His daughter fed him. His wife learned how to operate a handicapped vehicle and used a sling to help him get dressed. His dad bathed him. His mom cut his nails.

Like I said – it is a terrible disease.

We prayed God would heal him. We prayed for relief. We prayed for signs of improvement. And ultimately, October 21, God answered our prayers in heaven instead of earth. Allan was healed, relief was provided, and he improved fully to a glorified body.

Seven months. Too soon. Too fast.


Allan continued to go to church.

Allan listened to audio of the Bible in his room.

Allan wrote a message “don’t cry for me” to be read at his celebration of life service.

You see he and his wife (who is the strongest saint I have ever met by the way) trusted the Lord with their life. Read that again: with their life. Y’all know I have had a legitimate threat on my life. So I know what it is like to literally trust Jesus not just in my mind and heart but with my life. Allan walked that out. He lived that out.

I had the privilege of witnessing his dramatic life change over the last few years when his family decided to follow Jesus, get baptized, make some hard life change choices, go on mission trips, serve in the church, and impact A LOT of people.

Allan made it. He fulfilled what I hope to. What I see as the purpose of life. To live for Jesus until my very last breath.

So pray for my family because his physical absence is felt.  However at peace we are and proud of the legacy Allan has left there are still gaps left in the road ahead.

I leave you with just one question – however cliche it may sound – do you have the hope of Jesus by knowing him personally and believing He is your Savior?  Because I know that is what Allan would want you to answer. 

In Control

Wow!  Again?

Isn’t that how we all were after each hurricane kept spinning. After each earthquake kept shaking. After each fire kept blazing. Then the chaos of Las Vegas and now Sutherland Springs.  And that was just the Western Hemisphere.

Focusing in and there were some “disasters” that were hitting a little closer to home. We found out our middle son needs some comprehensive testing to see if his struggles at school might be deeper than “he’s just a boy”. Words like “processing disorder”, “dyslexia”, and “learning disability” were thrown out to us. Our heads are spinning like the hurricane winds. A dear friend of mine called, weeping, and said “I think my marriage might be over.”  And her world was breaking with earthquake strength. I received news that many loved ones of friends have been diagnosed with various cancers (I seem to be people’s first call these days). This epidemic of cancer continues to spread like a wild fire – it does not care who, when, or how.

It’s all just so…heavy. Like not able to lift it up heavy. Can’t get a hold of it heavy. Slipping out of my hands about to crash heavy. HEAVY!  Heavy on my heart, my mind, and my thoughts. Not able to really understand the magnitude of all the damage. Of all the lives marked, changed…forever!

I know I have shared songs before (and if you can’t see the link or the video is not in the email please go directly to the post on to be able to hear the song). I think the creativity of music is such a gift. Melodies stay with you.  Lyrics can wreck you. They move you to dance, to cry, to worship, and to remember. And I’m not just talking about Christian worship songs.  Theme songs from movies. The classic oldies. Commercial jingles. It’s all music that impacts.

This particular song that I have listened to SO loud in my car (like embarrassingly loud) will remind me of all these events whenever I hear it from now on.

It is from the Shane&Shane Psalms Live album. Psalm 46 (Lord Of Hosts). The chorus says:

Lord of Hosts, You’re with us

With us in the fire

With us as a shelter

With us in the storm

You will lead us

Through the fiercest battle

Oh where else would we go

But with the Lord of Hosts

So take a moment, maybe turn it up a little louder, and let it’s truth wash over you.  May you scream with this song, as I have, ‘I know my God is in control’. Afterwards spend some time remembering and praying for:

  • All the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida, Caribbean Islands, Turks & Caicos, and so many more
  • All the earthquake victims in South America.
  • All the wild fire victims in California.
  • All the victims families that perished in Las Vegas & Sutherland Springs.
  • Parents of children that have special needs.
  • Your marriage and your friends and families marriages.
  • The people in your life that have received the “it’s cancer” call.

Striving After Wind

“Stop Striving and Just Abide”

That was what I ‘heard’ as I sat on the deck of the condo we stayed in during Fall Break.  Do you have a special place that speaks to your heart?  A place where you feel you hear God more, or maybe you just have clearer thoughts?  The beach is that place for me.  As I prayed I kept getting this same phrase in my heart over and over.  “Stop striving and just abide”.  So…I researched a little.  Please forgive the stream-of-thought-rambling-nature of this post.

Striving vs. Abiding

Striving:  exert oneself vigorously; try hard; make strenuous efforts toward any goal;    Thesaurus: bend over backward; break one’s neck; drive; go all out; fight; go the limit; labor; make every effort; knock oneself out; do one’s best

Abiding:  continuing without change; enduring; steadfast; remain; continue, stay, to wait for; submit to;       Thesaurus: constant, steady, persistent, concede accept, sit tight, suffer, tolerate, withstand

When I looked where ‘striving’ is used in the Bible it referenced the book of Ecclesiastes.  I have never read or studied much in this book.  The phrase “striving after wind” occurs nine times and most often couples with “this too is meaningless”.  In 2:22 it says, “What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?”  In other words, What do I have to show for all my striving?

The Hebrew word used for wind is – Ruah – which means ‘sense of purposelessness, uselessness, emptiness’.

Isaiah 45:9: “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots!  Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘what are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles?’”  How much do I fight God, the one who formed me, and strive against what he is doing.  Strive against how he is forming my journey.

So what about Abide – where is this word used in the Bible?  Depending on what translation of the Bible you are reading you may see ‘remain’ instead of ‘abide’.

In Numbers 9:22 “Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for 2 days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out.”

John 15:4 “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

The commentary in my Bible under these verses in John say: “remain in me” was clarified by the added statement in vs. 7 “and my words remain in you”.  Christ desired that His disciples continue to obey the words that He had spoken to them so that their lives would be full of joy.  Dependence on Christ, communion with Him, and obedience to Him will result in a fruitful life for the Lord.

1 John 2:24-25, “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you.  If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.  And this is what he promised us – even eternal life.”

What about the word remain?  Definition: to stay, live, dwell

So…putting it all together after meditating on the above this it where it took me:

Where am I striving?  Where am I ‘chasing the wind’ which only leads to emptiness?

Strangely enough I think I’m striving in trying to find what I should be striving towards.  Let me explain.  I have been weighed down with trying to figure out my purpose and calling and what I ‘should’ be doing.  And it became a ‘chasing the wind’ task for me.  After talking to my husband and my mentor they gave me permission to give myself the freedom to do…wait for it…nothing.  I’m only 38.  My purpose can be broad.  Choosing to abide in God is my purpose and calling – it’s whatever He lays in front of me next.  My purpose and calling is to be in His will.  I have the rest of my life to figure out what fills my heart specifically – all the time for Him to plant, toil, fertilize and grow what that should be.  So I say:  Lord, I want to chase after you, not the wind.  I want to chase your will and what you might be calling me towards.  But the grander calling on my life, or the purpose of my life, well, it doesn’t have to be something narrowed in and specific.  Because it’s as specific as what you lead me to.  Sometimes you might lead me to the well of abundance, sometimes you might lead me to the city of productivity, and sometimes you might lead me to the wilderness of nothing – all are exactly a perfect and complete calling of purpose!  Amen.

So I wait.  I wait to see what the next thing might be.  I’m in the quiet and stillness of this space for Him to just guide me without giving him options.  How presumptuous of me to think I could give him options in the first place.  The LORD will direct me to the correct way.

So, I declare, LORD here is my hand – I’m stretching it out to you and allowing you to direct my path.  How perfect/ironic that you lead me back to the verse that has always been in my life:  “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) 

And again I say amen!

Questions for thought:

  • Where are you chasing the wind?
  • Are you abiding in Jesus? Are you waiting and submitting to his will?  How?
  • Or maybe the very first question you should answer is have you ever extended your hand out to Jesus and submitted your life and will to Him?  If so, reflect back on that time in your life.  If not, I would suggest you explore it deeper and further.

Force vs. Flow

Last December as I was being asked to decide whether I was going to recommit to my role within CBS (I have mentioned Community Bible Study (CBS) many times before) I felt uneasy.  I wasn’t sure why, but I didn’t really explore it.  There was already some transition going on in the leadership and I chalked it up to those changes and didn’t think it had to do with me personally.  More conversations.  More stirrings.  More doubt.  But it was more convincing myself it was because of more change that came in the leadership and the class.  I didn’t understand and knew there would be no way God would call me out of my role because I adore the ministry and loved my role.  But as the summer started the struggle became stronger and the joy became weaker.  That should always be the sign when the struggle becomes stronger than the joy.

Please don’t read that and assume that it applies to everything.  I would not apply that to my marriage.  I would not apply that to my children.  Or my relationship with God.  And sometimes there is a season where you have to endure a stronger struggle and it’s hard to find joy, but when we have committed to the Lord we can rely on his promise that joy will come in the morning.  So when it is not an oath that you have sworn in the presence of God and it comes to your service in ministry, your job, your volunteer commitments, your hobbies, and just commitments in general that when you are manufacturing energy instead of it providing you energy a change may be on the horizon.  And that is what it came to with me and CBS – I was manufacturing energy to fuel me to serve rather than it fueling me.

I had always been told, “When you don’t feel like you get a clear yes or no, lean into the yes and keep on the same path”.  But in this experience and I think for my future I can solidly say I don’t agree.  I now say, “When you don’t feel like you get a clear yes or no, lean into the no because you don’t know what he is freeing you up for”.  It may be the same exact thing you are saying no to.  That “position” will still be available because he still has it in his will for it to be yours.  But it may be something completely new and exciting and off your radar, but on His radar that he has already prepared for you.

This was the case with me.  I decided at a very inconvenient time within the ministry to lean into the no.  To put aside the fear of disappointing others.  To understand that God doesn’t work on the CBS calendar – he has the right to call and claim me at any time of his choosing.  So I made difficult phone calls.  Had hard conversations.  And ultimately did disappoint people.  But I know I was obeying my heavenly father and honestly that’s all that mattered.

So the day after these excruciating conversations (I shed A LOT of tears – I did not understand, but I chose to trust) I got a simple text, “Ashley, you interested in filling in for my assistant while she is on maternity leave?”.  It came from a friend of mine that I had worked with previously at church who had recently stepped into the campus pastor role.  Cue more tears and A LOT more of them.  This was not on my radar.  I wasn’t thinking about going back to work.  I didn’t know if it was what was next, but I chose to step into finding out.

A lot had to be figured out regarding carpooling the boys to school, Garrett’s childcare, the hours, my planned vacations being approved….I could go on and on.  And each and every detail was solidified easily within 24 hours.

My late mentor Regina always used to tell us, “Force vs. Flow”.  We, in our humanness, can tend to force things, but God is in the business of sweetly flowing things our direction so all we have to do is ride.

And so, that is what I have been doing for the last 11 weeks.  I have been working about 25-30 hours at my church and with that came early mornings and some crazy coordination of schedules, but it also came with some sweet quiet times, lots of laughs, and some needed discipline in my schedule.  Some days it kicked me hard in the pants.  But most days I surrendered to the one who provided the opportunity and flourished.

I officially transitioned everything back over to the stellar gal that holds that role yesterday.  As much as I loved the job and the job responsibilities, she is a rock star at what she does and I’m thrilled I could play a part in holding down the fort until she returned.

<and just so you know – God provided an awesome replacement for my role in CBS at just the perfect time (of course!) and she is killing it!>

As always, here are my closing questions for you to reflect for yourself:

  • Is there an area in your life you are manufacturing energy?
  • Where should you lean into the ‘no’ and make a difficult decision?
  • What are you forcing to happen, rather than surrendering and allowing him to make it flow?

Ebenezer Stone

One of my favorite worship songs came out a few months before I got diagnosed.  I had sang the chorus, but after February 10th the words took on a whole new meaning and this song became sorta an Ebenezer Stone** for me for this time of my life.  We sang it at church a couple weeks ago and I felt like I should share it with all of you.  Take some time to listen to it and Enjoy!

**”The prophet Samuel set up a stone after the LORD routed the Philistines and Israel won a great victory. This was not without repentance and seeking the LORD on Israel’s part. They had to put away their false gods and pray. The stone, named Ebenezer, commemorated that victory, for “Thus far the LORD has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). Whenever the Israelites would pass by the stone, they would remember what they were capable of, and how the LORD acted on their behalf.

So when people today refer to setting up an Ebenezer, they are using something physical to remind them of spiritual truth, especially God’s faithfulness and goodness.”